Ex-House Speaker Arrested By FBI

(NewsGlobal.com)- The former Speaker of the House in Tennessee was arrested along with his main aide on Tuesday, and now faces federal charges that include kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering and bribery.

Back in March Republican state Representative Robin Smith resigned his post abruptly. He eventually plead guilty to federal wire fraud charges that involved Glen Casada, the former state House Speaker, and Cade Cothren, his chief of staff.

When that happened, there was plenty of speculation that further charges would eventually follow. And that’s exactly what happened earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Cothren and Casada were arrested by FBI agents at their home. They both face as many as 20 years in a federal prison if they are convicted on their charges.

Both men pleaded not guilty. They were released from custody, though they are restricted from traveling outside of their middle district in Tennessee unless they get prior approval to do so.

The indictment includes 20 federal charges, alleging that Cothren and Casada exploited the power positions they held by conspiring with another lawmaker. Their plan resulted in them utilizing Phoenix Solutions LLC — a political consulting firm — to funnel money their way, in an attempt to conceal that they were behind it.

The company was registered by Cothren in New Mexico. The reason why it was registered there is that the state allows LLCs to be registered anonymously. Cothren also rebuffed multiple requests for meetings to be held in-person with their lawmakers, claiming that the representatives for the company weren’t located in the state.

A release issued by the DOJ said Cothren, Casada and the unnamed third lawmaker deceived other state lawmakers in Tennessee in their conspiracy “to enrich themselves by obtaining bribes and kickbacks from Cothren, in exchange for securing the approval of Phoenix Solutions as a mailer program vendor.”

After the preliminary hearing Tuesday, Cothren told reporters that “the truth will come out.” His lawyer, Cynthia Sherwood, added that she plans on “strongly defending the charges,” and Cothren “looks very forward to being vindicated.”

In March, Cameron Sexton, who is the Tennessee House Speaker who followed Casada in that role, was a witness in the investigation, and testified before a grand jury. Multiple lawmakers as well as current and former staffers were called by the same grand jury and gave testimony to them.

Sexton said that he was working with federal authorities as part of the investigation since 2019, when he first became House Speaker.

He commented on the situation this week by saying:

“Today is a good day for Tennesseans because we did not turn a blind eye on these criminal activities.”

Smith struck a plea deal with federal authorities in her case. Part of that deal was a promise that she would cooperate with them and serve as a potential witness in the case as well.

Agents with the FBI conducted searches of the offices and homes of many state lawmakers in Tennessee back in January of 2021. The homes of Smith, Cothren and Casada were all part of that search.